Archive for the ‘Human Resources Management’ Category

Time to Break the Link?

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

Conventional wisdom often creates a strong linkage between performance evaluation ratings and compensation. On its face, this link seems completely appropriate. After all, it is only natural for people to think that stronger performance deserves more pay, weaker performance less.

However, a performance / compensation model with this direct link has a number of inherent downsides. First, many managers “force fit” employee rankings into desired compensation distributions in order maintain budget.  This practice discredits the performance system, breeds cynicism, and demotivates employees.performance-ratings

Another unwanted side effect of a direct linkage between performance rating and compensation is that many employees worry excessively about the pay implications related to the differences in ratings. As a consequence, they become fixated on their rating and drown out any discussion about developmental needs.

Focusing less on the link itself between performance and compensation allows companies to worry less about tracking and rating, and the consequences thereof, and more about building capabilities and inspiring employees to stretch their skills and aptitudes.  Now, to be clear, I am not suggesting that compensation has no linkage with performance. I simply believe that the focus on the immediate linkage, at the time of the review, has several drawbacks that take away from the intended outcome of the performance review process and discussion.

Here is the rub: Since only a relatively few employees are truly standouts, (5-10%, perhaps 15%) why risk demotivating the broad majority of your employee base by focusing almost exclusively on the linkage between pay and performance.

Even General Electric, a long time proponent of the performance – pay linkage model and all the related processes and templates that go with it, is currently reinventing itself in this arena.  They are considering options ranging from dispensing with the entire model to a more gradual shift over time. They also understand that they must equip their managers with new tools and methods to motivate and reward employees.

The growing need for companies to inspire and motivate performance makes it critical to create managers and supervisors who are better coaches. Without great and frequent coaching, it’s difficult to set goals flexibly and often, to help employees stretch their jobs, or to give people greater responsibility and autonomy while demanding more expertise and judgment from them.

If you’re rethinking your organization’s performance management process, you don’t have to go it alone. Contact CAI’s Advice & Resolution team to help you and your leadership team evaluate alternative models and coach you through making a change.



Tom Sheehan brings 20+ years of extensive, broad based strategic, tactical and practical HR experience to CAI’s Advice & Resolution team.  He advises HR and other business leaders on talent management, organizational effectiveness, employee engagement, M&A’s, and employee relations.

Think Beyond Bonuses: Use Low Cost/High Impact Benefits to Maintain a Highly Engaged Workforce

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

As we prepare for the Overtime Rule (effective December 1) and continue to address increasing cost of insurance, we may feel the financial impact and strain on the budget.  It can be hard for companies to provide benefits to maintain employee engagement and stay competitive in the workplace with limited spending available in the budget.

I know that as employers, we recognize that a key motivator, or perhaps the number one motivator for many employees is compensation – the salary that is earned each week.  We work to make money and provide for our families and or achieve other goals.  But don’t underestimate the power of low cost benefits. employee-engagement

When I planned to move to CAI from my previous job in Banking, one of my biggest factors in finding a good employer was one that had a similar family oriented culture and flexible schedule. I have a young child and being able to have time if he is sick, to participate in his events, or work from home when needed was a key decision maker for me. CAI is an very employee-friendly organization that offers many low-cost perks: unlimited personal time, ability to work from home if needed, supplement to a wellness program of my choice, and continuing education classes (so I can maintain my certification).  The new CAI office in Raleigh further establishes CAI’s commitment to creating a great culture for employees. There are free snacks/drinks (including healthy choices like fruit and flavored water), several “We Spaces” that allow employees to move from their traditional desk spaces if they need a break or want to work in a different location for a bit, a lactation/meditation room, and several nice outdoor spaces for breaks and lunch.

Here are some other creative, low-cost ways that you can provide benefits to your employees:

  • Community Service/Volunteer Days: Allow your employees to have a couple of paid days per year to spend giving back to the community. Employees can participate in events such as Habitat for Humanity or Big Brother/Big Sister Program, working at a soup kitchen, or helping with Special Olympics. As an employer you could put requirements on the process for requesting the time away (to ensure coverage and ensure it is a legitimate request) and your participation will help build relationships in the community as a good steward.


  • Flexible Schedules/Time Away: Not all companies can provide a flexible workplace due to customer/production needs. If your culture would allow for a flexible schedule or time away, give it a try. You can build in parameters to ensure compliance and avoid abuse while creating an environment that communicates a trusting relationship: you trust that the employee will get the work done and take time as needed without abusing the privilege. Some employers utilize a seasonal “summer schedule” that allows employees to take advantage of the longer day light hours.


  • Employee discounts on company products or services. Does your company offer a product or service that they could give employees at a discount? We have companies that manufacture pocket books that allow employees to purchase at a discount, hotels that offer family/friend rates, and food processing companies that allow employees to have a certain number of free products per week worked.


  • Education Assistance: Providing a small fund for educational assistance or student loan repayment can go a long way. You can also tie in parameters to ensure that the employees don’t get the assistance and leave – have them sign a reimbursement form acknowledging that they will repay the company at a certain rate if they leave within a predetermined amount of time. Providing educational assistance will allow your employees to grow and become more valuable.


  • Wellness Programs: Wellness programs can range from super low cost to expensive. You can run a wellness program on a low budget by doing small walking challenges (have a couple small prizes like gift cards for winner), a newsletter outlining healthy eating/lifestyle tips (ask your employees to contribute) or a small ‘match’ on an employee’s choice of wellness program (Weight Watchers, Yoga, Gym Membership). Contributing to a wellness program will tie directly in to a healthier and happier work staff (and hopefully lower insurance/work injury claims).


  • Casual Dress Days: Do you know how much wearing a pair of jeans matters to your employees? Seriously, allowing employees a casual day once a week will be LIFE CHANGING for your staff. Of course you can require that the dress code still meet requirements of the business and maintain the professional image for customers.


  • Company Swag: I am sure you have (or can get your hands on) some logo items at a cheap cost. Employees love to have a water bottle, t-shirt, pens or small lunch container with their company logo. Double bonus: free advertising!


  • Partnerships with Other Companies: Do you have a local business that you could partner with to offer employee discounts? Maybe there is a tire shop up the road that will offer a 10% discount to employees of your company or a local restaurant that will provide a discounted lunch for specific days during the week.


  • Training: Show your employees that you value them and have a plan for their growth in the company. Sending an employee to a training class says that you have plans for them and are willing to invest in their talent and future with the company. As a member of CAI, there are many opportunities for cost-effective training and free webinars.

Overall creating a culture that values employees and puts emphasis on the employee’s work/life balance is a key to maintaining an engaged workforce and staying competitive with applicants.

Learn how CAI can help you improve performance and engagement in your workplace.

hinesley_emilyEmily’s primary area of focus is providing expert advice and support in the areas of employee relations and federal and state employment law compliance as a member of the Advice & Resolution team for CAI. Additionally, Emily advises business and HR leaders in operational and strategic human resources areas such as talent and performance management, employee engagement, and M&A’s. Emily has 10+ years of broad based HR business partnering experience centering around employee relations, compliance & regulatory employment issues, strategic and tactical human resources, and strong process improvement skills.


Can We Talk…? How to Have a Difficult Conversation

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

Every manager at one time or another has been faced with this awkward situation. The need arises for them to have a difficult performance conversation with one of their direct reports. In most cases, it has become clearly evident that the employee’s performance has dropped below the acceptable standard, and the issue must be addressed.thx7vghl8u

Yet, it is generally at this point that they begin to question how to best approach the matter. Because of a strong desire to be liked (a.k.a. high need for affiliation), many managers bury their heads in the sand and hope that the matter will fade away. The reality is that this is seldom the case.

Still other managers just feel too uncomfortable to give constructive feedback. To assist them, here are several practical tips that you can share with your management team:

Tip # 1: Don’t procrastinate

When you see performance issues, address them as quickly as possible. Putting them on the back burner will only delay the inevitable. If you allow the matter to pass, you may inadvertently send a signal that the performance is acceptable.

Tip # 2: Don’t dance around the subject

When they are about to have a difficult conversation, managers tend to try to ‘break the ice’ with some small talk. Fight that urge. The best approach is to avoid the small talk and get to the point. A good starting point is to immediately state… ‘This is going to be a difficult conversation.’

Tip # 3: Provide examples

Being too general when addressing a performance issue doesn’t give the employee enough to work with. In order for them to fully grasp the issues, give specific examples of their performance lapses. You don’t have to beat them over the head with every instance, but you do need to make it clear.

The use of ‘talking points’ allows you to keep focused on the issues at hand. By sticking to the script, talking points also help to reduce the likelihood that emotions will hinder your ability to deliver a clear message.

Tip # 4: Listen to the employee

This is a frequently overlooked aspect of the difficult conversation process. In their zeal to get their point across, many managers turn this into a one-sided monologue. It is critical that you give the employee the opportunity to share their thoughts. Sometimes all you will hear are lame excuses. Other times, there are valid points that mitigate the performance deficit.

However, if the employee becomes defensive, politely interrupt them, and return to your talking points.

Tip # 5: Clarify expectations

This is the ideal time to reinforce what the expectations are. If the matter is part of an ongoing performance issue, you would be best served to create a performance improvement plan. Either way, you’ll need to restate what the expectations are, and gain employee commitment to those expectations.

Another best practice is to keep a real-time log of such discussions (date, time, issues etc.).

Tip # 6: Set a follow-up meeting

The best way to ensure that the employee fully understands that this matter will not be ignored, is to keep it on their radar. During your discussion, arrange for a follow-up meeting in a couple of weeks. At that meeting, make certain to get a progress update from the employee and provide them with your observations.

Nearly all of us avoid having difficult conversations. To start providing important and necessary constructive performance feedback, contact CAI’s Advice & Resolution team today!



Tom Sheehan brings 20+ years of extensive, broad based strategic, tactical and practical HR experience to CAI’s Advice & Resolution team.  He advises HR and other business leaders on talent management, organizational effectiveness, employee engagement, M&A’s, and employee relations.

Keys to an Effective Performance Incentive Program

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

When it comes to increasing the return on your investment in your company, many business owners think of getting increased value through investments in new computer systems, or more sophisticated warehousing equipment, or a larger facility.  Yet, in today’s business climate, it is the company’s employees more than anything else that represent the single biggest investment that a business owner will make.incentive

That’s why effective performance incentive programs are so important.  Properly designed performance incentive programs not only help to ensure that you achieve your business objectives, but they can actually help employees develop or enhance job skills, thereby improving employee performance and productivity.  And, more productive employees become even more committed to achieving company goals, leading to repeat success and reduced staff turnover.

While the variety and complexity of a performance incentive program will vary from company to company, here are a few ingredients that are critical to the success of all such programs, regardless of your business:

Has High Visibility Among Employees: An effectively-designed performance incentive program will really get the attention of the employees.  But managers must also ensure that they create a continual “buzz” to keep the program objectives foremost in the minds of employees.  Regular progress reports and updates, as well as interim celebrations will go a long way to keep people focused and motivated.

Provides A Variety Of Incentives: Not all employees have the same responsibilities, and not everyone is motivated in the same way.  Successful performance incentive programs include opportunities for all employees to “win,” regardless of the type of work that they perform.  And including different types of rewards (a choice of either “cash” bonus, gift card, or a day off, for example) ensures that there’s something for everyone in achieving the goal(s).

Delivers Rewards In A Timely Fashion: The greatest satisfaction in achieving a goal occurs when the goal is realized, not a month after the fact.  And timely acknowledgment more directly connects the achievement itself with the reward, providing additional incentive to win another time.  Make sure that your performance incentive program provides for prompt recognition of achievement.

Includes Employee Involvement: Incentive programs developed by top managers only without the involvement of employees are likely to be not as effective as when there is employee involvement.   The people performing the job are often best positioned to know what is an appropriate range is for actual and stretch goals. Also seek employees’ opinions regarding types of incentives that will truly motivate them.

Reflects Business Goals And Company Values:  Remember that performance incentives are a very effective way to reinforce the goals and objectives you have for your business, as well as to remind people of the company’s overriding values.  Get the greatest impact from your performance incentive program by ensuring that it rewards performance consistent with that vision.

Should you need help thinking through an approach that will work best for your organization contact CAI’s Advice & Resolution team today.

Rick_Washburn circle

Rick Washburn leads the Advice & Resolution team at CAI. In his role, he advises executives and HR professionals on strategic and organizational issues, tackling subjects ranging from employee engagement to talent management. With his 25 years experience in HR management, Rick is uniquely poised to advice and lead businesses to successful HR strategies.

Coaching in the Workplace

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News & Observer column, The View from HR.

There are more coaches working in corporate America than in all of college sports. What are these workplace coaches doing?coaching

So many kinds of workplace coaching exist because individual circumstances vary greatly. Generally, internal coaches are experienced mentors or managers assisting an employee.  Internal coaches tend to focus on performance improvement or career advancement (succession).  Staff coaches know so much more about the business and how it works than external coaches.

External fee-based coaches generally focus more on employee behaviors. Of course, behaviors affect performance but in different ways than a lack of job skills or experience. External coaches usually have more experience with assessment tools and helping an employee understand the role of behaviors in their success.

Whether called coaching, mentoring, managing or succession planning, the idea is a coach can help someone see what they cannot see by themselves. The coach is there to help create a pathway for change and growth.

The best workplace coaches are great listeners. Before employees trust a coach’s process or guidance, they have to feel heard. This is especially true in behavioral coaching.  Behaviors are so personal and emotional, change often requires an equally strong emotional counterweight created with the help of a coach.

Great coaches are always looking for ways to bring awareness to the employee. Until we see what we do not know, how our behavior impacts others, or how our role (or future role) will test us, we cannot change.

Good mentors, managers and coaches are willing to devote the time needed, first to build a good relationship and second to create the space to process and learn. Performance coaching (managing) can be directive at times with steps and instructions. Behavioral coaching usually includes more questions than answers plus the use of objective personal assessment data. Mentor-style coaching might be mostly about providing a newer employee with helpful context and scope earned from experience.

Logic, emotion, listening, direction, awareness, venting, conversations, context, history-telling, role-modeling, sticks and carrots: all these and more fit under the big umbrella of coaching.

Successful coaching matches the purpose of the engagement with the tools and techniques of the right coach. Is a coach needed to keep an employee’s career train from jumping the track? Or is a coach assigned to help a high potential employee grow into their next role?

The best managers in any organization are already coaches without the label. They use patience, conversations, relationships, listening and direction to provide employees every chance to succeed.  Poor managers need their own coaches to help see the damage created by bad behaviors.

The mistake we often see employers make is offloading a problem employee onto a coach’s (or manager’s) plate expecting a miraculous conversion. Good coaching requires workplace reinforcement by leaders with skin in the game.

Employees sometimes reject the help. Behavioral change is key to success as responsibilities increase, but it is hard.

If offered a workplace coach or mentor, seize the opportunity as a gift to you and your career!

Bruce Clarke c

Bruce Clarke serves as CAI’S President and CEO, and has been with CAI since 2001. Bruce practiced labor and employment law with the national labor law firm of Ogletree Deakins for 18 years. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and was selected as one of North Carolina’s Legal Elite by Business North Carolina Magazine. Bruce is 100% committed to helping companies maximize employee engagement and minimize workplace liabilities.

Are you Prepared for the New Overtime Rule?

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

On December 1, 2016, the new US DOL Overtime Rule will officially go in effect. This new rule determines which employees are exempt from overtime. Employers will not have to pay overtime to exempt employees. If an employee is non-exempt, employers need to pay overtime for actual hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a single work week. The FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) defines which jobs may be exempt from the overtime penalty depending on minimum salary and duties performed. Exemption categories include both a minimum salary threshold, and a duties test. Jobs will have to meet both standards to qualify for exemption.

Feeling overwhelmed? We don’t blame you. Where do you begin? How do you prepare?

Organization and communication are a major factor in businesses making the shift to compliance as painless as possible.

Below are 3 key steps in preparing for the upcoming deadline.

  1. Conduct an internal audit to identify positions and employees potentially affected.
    In recent research conducted by Paychex found that one out of five employers were not aware of the final rule, and 55% did not think the new rule applied to them.
  2. Educate your employees on time keeping and tracking overtime.
    Some employees might still receive a salary but are now required to log their worked hours. Set up training on proper time recording practices.
  3. Develop a communication plan.
    Talk to your employees, explain the new law and guidelines. Make them aware of benefit changes, if any, due to the necessary change in FLSA status from exempt to non-exempt. Misclassifications can cause challenges and serious financial consequences.

2016_telu_header_2In our upcoming 2016 Triad Employment Law Update Conference in Greensboro, North Carolina, lead attorneys from Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP and CAI’s HR experts will provide registrants with key information about current and proposed changes in state and federal employment law. Building the proper infrastructure to protect your business and effectively navigate the Department of Labor’s new overtime rules and related regulations is critical to every company’s success. One of the concurrent breakout sessions at the 2016 Triad Employment Law Update Conference will focus on protecting your business and cover the shrinking white collar exemptions, interns, joint employers, postliminary duties and the DOL’s approach to enforcing these new standards.

Want to learn more about the conference and who should attend visit

Every workplace has questions that need to be answered, and the sooner the better. Contact CAI’s Advice & Resolution team today!

Immigration Compliance and Form I-9

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Pursuant to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) employers are prohibited from hiring or continuing to employ foreign nationals who lack authorization to work in the United States. That law requires employers to verify the identity and work authorization of all new hires, and it establishes civil and criminal penalties for noncompliance. IRCA establishes a system of employment eligibility verification procedures that all employers must follow when filling a job. Employers are obliged to be an integral part of the government’s efforts to reduce illegal immigration.formi-9

IRCA makes it unlawful for any employer in the United States to knowingly “hire or to recruit or refer for a fee” or to knowingly “continue to employ” an individual who lacks authorization to be employed in the United States. The law applies to any employee hired after November 6, 1986. Employees hired prior to November 7, 1986, are “grandfathered,” and their status need not be verified.

To comply with the law, employers must verify the identity and employment authorization of each person they hire, complete and retain a Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, for each employee, and refrain from discriminating against individuals on the basis of national origin or citizenship.

Employers must require all newly-hired employees to confirm their identity and eligibility to work in the United States.  Employers must complete Form I-9 for each person hired to perform labor or services in the United States in return for wages or other remuneration. Remuneration is anything of value given in exchange for labor or services. I-9 forms must be retained for specified periods of time including even after the employment relationship has ended, and it must be made available in the event of an audit or inspection. These compliance requirements apply to every new employee regardless of citizenship or alienage, even if there is no doubt as to the individual’s identity and employment authorization.

To confirm identity and employment eligibility, every new hire must produce an original document or a combination of documents that are designated by the federal government to satisfy that requirement.  A list of the acceptable documents is found on the last page of the Form I-9. The employer must accept whatever document or combination of documents from the List that the employee offers, so long as the document is original, unexpired, relates to the employee and shows no signs of tampering or counterfeiting.

The employer must ensure that the employee completes Section 1 of Form I-9 at the time of hire. “Hire” means when employment begins in exchange for wages or other remuneration begins. The time of hire is noted on the form as the first day of employment. Employees may complete Section 1 of Form I-9 before the time of hire, but no earlier than acceptance of the job offer. Review the employee’s document(s) and fully complete Section 2 of Form I-9 within three business days of the hire.

As you perhaps know the current I-9 form technically expired this past March 31.  However, until further notice employers should continue using this version until the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approves and issues an updated I-9 form. The public was able to provide comments on the proposed I-9 changes until April 27, 2016.  For a detailed summary of the proposed changes, see USCIS Seeks Comments on Proposed Changes to From I-9 webpage.

If you need help thinking through an Immigration issue or want to dive deeper into this topic please reach out to our Advice & Resolution team.



CAI Advice & Resolution team member Renee Watkins is a seasoned HR professional with a diverse background in Human Resource. Renee provides CAI members with practical advice in a wide-range of human resource functions including conflict resolution, compliance and regulatory issues, and employee relations.

Form 5500 Revisions Impact Both Small And Large Employers

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

The post below is a guest blog from Rob Krieg who serves as Principal, Health & Welfare Consultant for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

hcw5500revisionsblogThe Department of Labor (DOL), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) recently proposed significant changes to the form 5500 which has implications for both large employers and small employers. Targeting an effective date of 2019 plan year filings, the recent DOL Factsheet explains that many changes are on the horizon in an attempt to modernize and improve the Form 5500 annual return/report filed by employee benefit plans.  They identify the driving forces behind the changes include a desire to 1) modernize financial reporting, 2) provide greater information regarding group health plans, 3) enhance data mine-ability, 4 ) improve service provider fee information, and 5) enhance compliance with ERISA and the code.

The most notable proposed changes include:

  • Removing the small group exemption where previously many employers with less than 100 enrolled participants were exempt from filing;
  • Adding a new comprehensive schedule J (Group Health Plan Information) requirement;
  • New Schedule C requirement for each service provider;
  • And an expanded schedule H for funded plans.

Regardless of a group’s size, benefit plans should pay special attention to the new Schedule J requirements. Plans will now be asked to complete information on the types of benefits offered and the funding methods, including if benefits are HDHP, health FSA or HRA.  There will also be questions on participant contributions and employer contributions as well as enrollment information, including participants and dependents.  There appears to be requirements for claims data (including claims submitted, denied, appealed, paid, and where claims are paid from – insurer, trust or employer general assets.  And last but not least, there will be a focus on plan compliance with questions around COBRA, grandfathered status, MLR rebates, HIPAA, GINA, MHP SBC requirements, and SPD requirements.

As traditionally occurs, the DOL has asked for comments to the proposed regulations and these comments are due by October 4, 2016.  It is clear that the agencies are working together to significantly increase Form 5500 reporting obligations for many employers with group health plans. As explained in the fact sheet, the agencies are looking to update the filing requirement to gather data sufficient to support their enforcement efforts. Therefore, employers should take note and make sure to tighten up their benefit plan compliance over the next year.  The silver lining is that the agencies have provided plenty of lead time for employer’s to get into compliance.

If you have questions about these new regulations, or about your health benefit plan’s compliance with some of the regulations mentioned in the proposed regulations, contact your HCW consultant.

When An Employee Has A Serious Complaint

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News & Observer column, The View from HR.

It happens in every workplace. The same serious and unlawful misbehavior we see in our communities sometimes find its way to the job.  People are the greatest asset of an employer but can be the “crabgrass in the lawn of business,” as my friend says.workplaceissues

What should happen when harassment, discrimination, abusive treatment and other serious misbehaviors rear their ugly heads?

Managers, please view a complaint as an opportunity to make a situation better AND the long-term relationship with the victim stronger. Psychologists in workplace studies say that an emotional crisis is a key point where your response can make the employee’s attitude much better OR much worse.  Some even say that the best predictor of whether a problem will end in a lawsuit is how fairly you process the problem, not the problem itself.

Good managers do several things. They embrace the complaint, rather than avoid it, and focus on finding the right solution.  Neither of you caused the problem, so let the chips fall where they may and avoid prejudgment.  You will create a much better investigation and solution if you remain neutral on the outcome.  If you cannot be objective, ask for help.

Follow through with good listening, appropriate pushback to the victim for the whole story, and appropriate speed and discretion. Take any quick steps needed to prevent repeat behavior while you work.  Ideally, keep the victim informed of your progress.  Get help from HR or a mentor.  Follow your company’s complaint process, at a minimum.  Precedent can be important to consider, but avoid a foolish consistency as the saying goes.

Employees making complaints have an equally important role. Follow the complaint policy if there is one, but skip to another manager you trust if needed.  Your manager wants to hear how you feel, but must have facts to investigate.  Focus on the facts.  Who can help support your story?  Bring the problem to a trusted manager sooner rather than later.

Be honest about any part you may have played in the problem or steps you have already taken, good and bad. Have some discretion and give this time to work.  What is your manager going to hear when he or she investigates?  For example, be prepared to hear some things about your performance you may not like (but need to hear) if work quality is an issue.

An important question that employees and managers often fail to ask is: “What is the ideal outcome here?”  I am often surprised at how reasonable employees can be even in serious situations.  They know employers cannot guarantee perfect behavior by all.  But they have the right to expect help when they seek it.

Solutions to early-stage problems handled properly by all can be simple and effective, preserving relationships and protecting careers. Problems that are buried like a bone in the backyard will only get worse with age.

Bruce Clarke c

Bruce Clarke serves as CAI’S President and CEO, and has been with CAI since 2001. Bruce practiced labor and employment law with the national labor law firm of Ogletree Deakins for 18 years. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and was selected as one of North Carolina’s Legal Elite by Business North Carolina Magazine. Bruce is 100% committed to helping companies maximize employee engagement and minimize workplace liabilities.

“Go Ahead, Make My Day”

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

You may have thought of the look in Clint Eastwood’s eyes when he delivered his famous line as Harry Callahan in “Sudden Impact.” Interesting he was getting ready to have a morning cup of coffee when he discovers a robbery in the diner. When harm is threatened to one of the employees, instead of backing off, Harry steps up and confronts the situation. Through clenched teeth with a rough grumble he delivers the now infamous line “Go ahead, make my day.” Harry is trying to clean things up, make the bad better and help those who need him.goahead

Though Harry was able to make a huge impact alone, we know it takes contributing efforts from everyone to result in success. So what does this stroll down cinematic lane have to do with your organization?  Employees often feel out of control of situations at work and want to have someone step up and make their day, with lasting positive impact.  The leaders of the organization can make their day or break their day.  Managers and supervisors have an immeasurable impact on employee motivation and morale. Words, body language and facial expressions as the manager or leader, telegraph their opinion of the employees’ value to the organization.

If employees feel valued – they like their work – their morale goes up – productivity increases – the business becomes more successful – the employer can offer competitive pay and opportunities for growth – employees engage and motivation becomes catching – thus they feel valued and the cycle gains momentum and flourishes.

Building employee motivation and morale is challenging and yet can be simple.  Focusing on the needs of employees and understanding a leader’s impact on life at work can not only make their day, but it can make yours!  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Start the Day Right .  Smile. Walk with confidence.  Greet employees in their work areas.  Share information over a cup of coffee.  Listen to ideas and concerns.  Let employees know it is going to be a good day.  You set the tone.
  • Show Appreciation with Powerful but Simple Words.  Please. Thank You. You are doing a great job. I appreciate your working over the weekend.  Thanks for always being on time. Success begins with how you approach people. Motivational words leave people feeling valued.  Spend positive interaction time with employees.
  • Set Expectations and Provide Feedback.  Communicate your expectations.  Let employees know how they are performing.  Timely feedback is critical.  Acknowledge positive outcomes.  Work with employees to understand what expectations were not met and how they can produce a positive outcome the next time.  Use encouragement and reassurance when appropriate.  Follow up.
  • Reward the Behavior.  Reward and recognize positive contributions, both publicly and privately.  Treat employees fairly.  When performance goals are not met, administer progressive discipline. Address problems.  Highly motivated and top-contributing employee morale counts on management’s consistency.
  • End the Day Right.  Be visible. Tell them to have a good evening.  If you ask how the day progressed, be prepared to listen and take action if needed.  Check with the supervisor.  What actions could help make his/her shift better.  Go home with reflection.  Return positive.

When organizations ask their employees about what they need and want from work they are often surprised to find out how inexpensive it can be to fulfill those needs and wants, and to create an environment of committed employees working toward a common goal. If you have any questions about motivating employees, contact CAI’s Advice and Resolution team to help you solve real-life workplace problems.



CAI Advice & Resolution team member Renee Watkins is a seasoned HR professional with a diverse background in Human Resource. Renee provides CAI members with practical advice in a wide-range of human resource functions including conflict resolution, compliance and regulatory issues, and employee relations.